HBO recently aired a five-star one-hour documentary entitled "Shot Heard ‘Round The World." Yes, it’s the story of the New York Giants overtaking the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 to win the National League pennant. It includes all that led up to Bobby Thomson’s most dramatic home run, the homer I still consider to be the most important shot ever in MLB post-season play, and incidents that occurred in the lives of both Thomson and Ralph Branca after the home run that ended the 1951 N. L. playoffs. It contrasts the brilliant Leo Durocher, Giants manager, and the far less-than-brilliant Charley Dressen, Dodgers manager. It is not available on video at this time, so do yourselves a favor and watch for HBO to run it again.
Story of the Week
Ed "Whitey" Ford was a blue-chip pitcher, one of the best clutch pitchers I’ve ever seen. There are people like that in all professions; just tell them that today is very important, stand back, and they’ll do the rest. The bigger the crowd, the louder the crowd noise, the better. When pressure was on, ala the big games, Ford came through time after time.
Whitey Ford won 236 games, and lost only 106 games, to register a career .690 won-lost record. He also broke Babe Ruth’s (yes, the very same Babe Ruth) 45-year-old record of 29 2/3 scoreless innings in World Series competition, ending up with 32. He won 10 World Series games, threw 94 strikeouts, and 146 innings in World Series competition.
Ford’s World Series stats are so impressive that his regular season numbers tend to get lost in the shuffle. He won 20 games only twice in 16 years. However, from 1953 to 1960, he averaged 16 wins and seven losses per regular season. Everyone laughed at Casey Stengel; no need to do that. Stengel maneuvered the Yankees pitching rotation so that Ford faced the toughest opponents. Said Casey, "If you had one game to win, and your life depended on it, Whitey Ford is the guy you’d want to pitch that game."
Even though he led the AL in wins, innings pitched, won-lost percent, and won the Cy Young Award in 1961, Ford’s 25-4 record was overshadowed by Roger Maris’ quest for home run number 61, the one that broke Ruth’s record, and by Mickey Mantle finishing the year with 54 homers. He got more recognition by going 24-7 in 1963, and repeating in all three categories.
Ford was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame in 1974, along with Mickey Mantle, his very close friend, on the field and in the bars. When writers recalled the spitter Ford used to strike out Willie Mays in the 1964 All-Star Game, Ford stated, "They didn’t call me Mr. Slick for nothing." How very appropriate was that nickname?!
Last Week’s Trivia
What player’s poster became the biggest seller in NFL history? William "The Frig" Perry’s 1986 poster is #1. He was the Bears’ first round draft pick in 1985. He became a legend in a Monday night game in October of the same year as the 350-pound (or more) defensive tackle rushed for a touchdown against Green Bay, and a star was definitely born.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only player in NFL history to be named Super Bowl MVP from the losing team? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.